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Nazi-trained homing pigeons were the target of British covert operations during WWII, it has emerged.
Scores of lofts of the message-carrying birds were pinpointed by MI5 agents in 1940 across Belgium, West Holland and the Balkans.
The airborne threat was believed to be the pet project of SS chief Heinrich Himmler - who was known by British intelligence as an avowed pigeon fancier.
Under interrogation, captured "German pigeon personnel" told how the birds were a vital component of Hitler's plans to invade Britain.
The MI5 report on the phenomenon, released with a batch of wartime secret service documents this week, said: "From these prisoners of war it was learnt that it was anticipated that the birds would be used to convey information obtained by short-term pre-invasion agents."
British spy chiefs secretly considered training pigeons to fly into German targets carrying explosives or biological weapons, it has been revealed.
British intelligence set up a "pigeon committee" at the end of World War II to ensure expertise gained in the use of the birds to carry messages was not lost.
Documents now released to the National Archives reveal that the War Office intelligence section, MI14, warned: "Pigeon research will not stand still; if we do not experiment, other powers will."
Among MI14's proposals was the training of pigeons carrying explosives to fly into German searchlights.
Meanwhile, pigeon enthusiast Wing Commander WDL Rayner suggested a "bacteriological warfare agent" could be combined with the explosive.
"A thousand pigeons each with a two ounce explosive capsule, landed at intervals on a specific target, might be a seriously inconvenient surprise," Mr Rayner wrote.
He believed his "revolutionary" ideas could change the way wars were fought, and had the tentative backing of wartime MI6 chief Sir Stewart Menzies.
However the internal security service MI5 branded Rayner a "menace in pigeon affairs".
MI5's Lieutenant Colonel Tommy Robertson wrote: "I thought that some time ago it had been made clear that Rayner should finish writing his manual and then have nothing further to do with this committee officially."
Rayner's plan for a 400-pigeon loft where tests would be carried out was abandoned due to wrangling among the intelligence agencies over funding.
Originally posted by FredT
A couple of thoughts:
1)In todays battlefield it would be a sitting duck. A SDB could take out the turret with eash and then you just have an giant APC.
But for WWII it may have had been more practical given the weapons of the time.
It would not be very usefull against a mobile force, but against prepared positions like the Magiont line it would be quite aforce.
Its unlikely that that it would go anywhere without a 'Escort" like capital ships have. Some Panzers, AA, ground troops etc. Any kill would have to be a lucky drop from a CAS aircraft or close and dirty kill but the escorts would make it tough.
The other aspect people tend to forget is the terror value of such a weapon. the giant Krupps built cannon that shelled Paris in WWI did little real damage in terms of military, but cause alot of terror. That in and of itself had value in the WWII era. Imagine yourself manning a fixed line watching your bazoka rounds bounce off this monster. Are you going to hold position or bug out?